Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread kind of dementia. Dementia is the loss of behavioral ability and cognitive functioning to such an extent that it significantly interferes with daily living and regular activities. Today, approximately 7 out of 10 Australians with dementia have Alzheimer’s. More specifically, about 300,000 Australians suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
While dementia is a more general reference describing a person’s progressive cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s is distinguished by abnormal structures in the brain that damage and kill nerve cells. This destruction causes personality changes, memory failure and difficulty participating in daily activities.
One example of the daily activities affected is incontinence. Present estimates state that between 60% and 70% of people with Alzheimer’s struggle with managing their bowel and bladder control. More often than not, this difficulty stems from forgetting to use the toilet.
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more effective these treatments will be. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are many different symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, and they can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Memory loss: This is one of the most well-known symptoms of Alzheimer’s. A person with Alzheimer’s may forget recent events, conversations, or where they put things. They may also have trouble remembering how to do familiar tasks, such as cooking or driving.
- Confusion: A person with Alzheimer’s may get lost in familiar places, or have trouble understanding what people are saying. They may also start speaking oddly or say things that don’t make sense.
- Changes in mood and behavior: A person may become more withdrawn, depressed, or anxious. They may also become agitated or aggressive.
- Difficulty with activities of daily living: People may have trouble eating, dressing, or bathing. They may also have problems controlling their bladder or bowels.
Therefore, if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, it is important to have the right information and tools close at hand. Doing so helps you provide the best care for your charge. So, here are a few tips on managing incontinence and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips for Caregivers
- Communication: Encourage your charge to inform you when they need to relieve themselves.
- Observation: Remain vigilant and watch for nonverbal cues like a sudden expression of uneasiness or restlessness. These signs may indicate that they need to use the toilet.
- Reminding: In some cases, a gentle reminder to use the toilet may help prompt them.
- Accessibility: Make sure the toilet is always accessible. In addition, it is best to ensure that your charge is aware of how to get to it. When possible, simplify tasks so that the person can more easily understand what needs to be done. For example, instead of asking them to brush their teeth and comb their hair, you could just ask them to brush their teeth. Breaking down tasks into smaller steps can also be helpful.
- Keep A Clear Path: Ensure their path to the toilet is always unobstructed. Moreover, the bathroom must be well-lit and easy, and safe to use.
- Scheduling: If possible, establish a regular schedule for taking your charge to the toilet. For example, in the early morning and then every two hours until late evening.
- Adapting: Take note of when accidents occur, then plan for them. For instance, if they happen every two or three hours, endeavor to get them to the bathroom before that time.
- Dressing: Dress your charge in clothing that is easy to remove and clean.
- Personal Products: Use quality incontinence products (for example, incontinence pull-up pants and pads) that have high absorbency. There is a wide range of continence management aids available to meet all types and levels of need.
- Furniture Protection: Make certain that you adequately protect beds and chairs from unwanted leaks. As with incontinence products, various high-quality chair and bed protectors are effective in keeping fluids from soaking into the mattress or cushion.
- Encourage socialization: Socialization is important for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Participating in activities with other people can help reduce anxiety and depression, and it can also provide stimulating conversation and mental stimulation.
- Take breaks: Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming, so it is important to take breaks when needed. Ask family and friends to help out when possible, and take time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are four main stages of Alzheimer’s disease: preclinical, mild, moderate and severe.
Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease
This stage is also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. During this phase, people experience changes in their brains that can be detected by specialized tests but they do not yet experience any symptoms.
Mild Alzheimer’s disease
During this stage, people begin to experience some memory loss and other challenges with thinking and reasoning. These issues typically interfere with daily life activities only occasionally.
Moderate Alzheimer’s disease
People in this stage have more significant memory loss and cognitive challenges that interfere with their ability to live independently. They may also experience changes in mood and behavior.
Severe Alzheimer’s disease
In the final stage of the disease, people lose the ability to communicate and become completely reliant on others for their care.
There is no debating the fact that your role as a carer for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is far from easy. It takes a lot of vigour, patience, and care to carry out your duties well. So, it is essential to remember to care for yourself as well. Besides, you don’t have to go it alone.
So, don’t forget to take advantage of the professional expertise around you. It may be best to check with a doctor if you are concerned about a particular aspect of your patient’s care. Their advice will help keep you on track and ensure your charge’s comfort is always preserved.